5. Long-term Energy Planning and Integration of Renewable Energy in Power Systems

The EREP model used in this analysis was developed primarily with the aim of assisting IRENA member countries in owing the process of developing long-term renewable integration scenarios and strategies, by transferring it to the interested energy planning offices. In developing such long-term scenarios and strategies, a formal power system modelling technique as shown in this report could serve important roles for two main reasons.

Firstly, it provides rational basis for decision-making. A formal modelling technique assesses the overall investment needs to meet demand, and also helps prioritise alternative investment options based on economic criteria (cost minimisation), as well as on social (import dependency, reliability of supply, rural electrification, etc.) and environmental (emissions of air pollutants and GHG, etc.) criteria. It allows various "what-if" analyses to compare implications of different policy options.

Secondly, processes for developing long-term scenarios using a formal modelling technique provide a platform for consensus-making among stakeholders who may have conflicting objectives. A formal modelling technique does not allow there to be conflicting objectives in the system, as a feasible system may not be able to satisfy all the objectives when they are in conflict.

Concerning the first of these reasons, analytical work using formal modelling tools is a basic "must" in designing a long-term vision of energy sector development. Electricity master plans are typically developed based on full-fledged analysis using such modelling tools. However, in many African countries local capacity to use such tools, or even access to such tools, is often limited. The second reason is that the process of planning is as important as the plan itself, and so having local capacity to use such tools is important. It is worth adding that having local capacity allows the timely updating of a plan, which is often a problem when relying on analysis done by foreign consultancy constancy firms. The landscape surrounding the power sector, and in particular renewable technologies, is rapidly changing and modelling tools allow these changes to be addressed.

Another advantage of owning the process of energy planning using formal modelling tools is that it allows the possible caveats in using such a tool to be fully appreciated. Any model output must be considered in the light of the input data, the model structure and the modelling framework limitations.

It is against this background that IRENA developed the EREP model. Special attention has been focused on the representation of renewable power supply options and their integration into the power system. The aim is to make the EREP model available to interested energy planners and academicians in the region, so that they can use it to explore alternative scenarios for national and regional power sector development. The EREP model provides links to IRENA's latest resource and technology cost assessment. It is configured with the information in the public domain and can be easily updated by the country experts in the region with the latest information which may not be in public domain.

The purpose of this analysis is not for IRENA to develop and to advocate the "renewable transition scenario" for the region. Rather, the scenario presented here is to provide a good and robust starting point for analysts in the region and in respective countries to provoke further discussion about the assumptions and results, and to eventually transfer the model so that the local experts could use it for energy planning purposes. Further scenarios can be built for policy assessments. Energy planning is a continuous process, and modelling tools for decision-making need to be kept alive by constant revision as new information comes in.

In December 2012, IRENA, in corporation with ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), organised a workshop to discuss the role of energy planning in the development of the energy sector and in promoting renewable energies, to present IRENA's EREP model, and to identify areas of collaboration in the field of energy planning. Invited participants from ECOWAS countries, representing energy planning offices in the governments and in utilities in the region, acknowledge that having access to planning tools such as the EREP model is important although access to them and capacity to use them are limited in some countries.

In particular the availability of EREP was considered timely, as ECOWAS countries are developing national renewable deployment plans following the adoption of the ECOWAS Renewable Energy Policy in October 2012 by energy ministers in the ECOWAS counties. Within the framework of this regional policy, National RE Action Plans (NREAP) will start to be developed in the next two years. The EREP model is seen as an appropriate tool to support the NREAP. IRENA, together with its partner organisations, has been planning the setting of a capacity-building support framework.

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